Weekend Watch List: July 5-7th

Sad the Confederations Cup is over? Well, get over it because the CONCACAF Gold Cup is back and it kicks off this weekend! Here I will preview a few of the opening matches to watch along with MLS and other leagues to check out.

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Must Watch Games:
*Mexico vs. Panama

**Sunday, July 7th at 7:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer (Coverage starts at 7:00 pm CST)
***Kicking off Group A action is one of the most intriguing matchups of the tournament: Mexico vs. Panama. The last time the two teams met last month in World Cup Qualifying, they played to a 0-0 draw in Panama. However, this game is certain to produce a different outcome, as Mexico is planning to field an entirely different team (their “B” team) since they sent their “A” team to the Confederations Cup. Only one exception has been made, as Club America’s Raul Jimenez has been approved by FIFA to be added to Mexico’s Gold Cup roster although he wasn’t on the preliminary 35-man roster due to his inclusion in Mexico’s Confederations Cup squad. Jimenez saw limited playing time during Mexico’s World Cup Qualifying and Confederations Cup campaigns however, during his brief appearances, the 22-year-old striker showed great poise and promise and will most likely start in the game on Sunday. Panama on the other hand, will be featuring their “A” team which had a very strong showing in their recent World Cup Qualifying campaign, despite their last 2-0 loss to the United States. As Panama proved they could play with the Mexican premiere team, trust them to give Mexico’s “B” team all they can handle in a very physical match.

*United States vs. Guatemala
**Friday, July 5th at 10:00 pm CST on NBC Sports Net
***The U.S. will finish out their preparation for the 2013 Gold Cup by facing Guatemala in a friendly match on Friday. Expect Klinsmann to be experimental in the squad as he looks to tune up the team for their Group C opener against Belize July 9th. The U.S. has dominated the Central American side in head-to-head action, with the US winning 4 and drawing 1 in their last five meetings. Guatemala did not qualify for the Gold Cup. [**Random Side-note fun fact: The US have never won in San Diego, with a 0-5-2 record all-time]

*Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union
**Saturday, July 6th at 8:00 pm CST on Comcast Sports Net
***Our Houston Dynamo are looking to break their lengthy and lackluster winless streak on Saturday by getting 3 points at home over the impressive Philadelphia Union. After a 2-0 dredging up in New York last weekend, the Dynamo had a lot of work to do, primarily with the defense whose lack of communication and poor positioning left Tally Hall completely exposed to the Red Bulls’ potent offense threats of Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Fabian Espindola, and Jonny Steele. Another issue is the offense of the Dynamo, which has been lacking creativity, precision, and finishing in the box, scoring a total of only 2 goals in their last 7 league games. The Union have been experiencing a very strong campaign so far but will be missing two players due to Gold Cup duty: Jack McInerney and Keon Daniel. McInerney has been Philadelphia’s golden boy so far this season. At 20-years-old, he has been leading the MLS goal scoring table and has been the x-factor in the Union’s offense, combining beautifully with the older and more experienced Connor Casey. As of yet, McInerney’s presence has yet to be missed as the Union drew 2-2 away at Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, however, the absence may catch up with Philadelphia this weekend at insanely difficult to play at BBVA Compass Stadium.

*Botafogo vs. Fluminense
**Sunday, July 7th at 4:30 pm CST on Gol TV
***If you were disappointed that the Confederations Cup is over, fear not, for the brilliant Brazilians have given us yet another great game to focus our attention on Brazilian football. This weeks Brasileiro action features Classico Vovô (Grandpa derby), one of the oldest derbies in the entire world (dating back to 1906) between two of the biggest clubs in Rio de Janeiro: Botafogo and Fluminense. Both teams are stacked with some of Brazil’s brightest talents, with Fluminense featuring 3 Confederations Cup winners including Silver Boot winner Fred. Both of these teams have kicked off the 2013 Brasileiro relatively strongly and are expected to be fighting for the title in the end, so this is definitely a match up all of Brazil will be keeping an eye on.

*Messi & Friends vs. The Rest of the World
**Saturday, July 6th at 6:00 pm CST on ESPN
***Lionel Messi along with around 20 of his closest friends are coming to Chicago to play a friendly match. Did I mention some of his friends include Edinson Cavani, David Luiz, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra, Robert Lewandowski, and Thierry Henry just to name a few? A must watch all-star showdown.

Honorable Mention:
*Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders

**Saturday, July 6th at 10:00 pm CST on NBC Sports Net
***Ding, ding, ding! Round two of the Cascadia Cup match up between Vancouver and Seattle is in play! Seattle took the first tie between the two sides 3-2 at CenturyLink Field and now Vancouver are looking to get some payback on their own turf. Vancouver have not lost since their defeat to Seattle in early June and are looking to see the streak continue while Seattle, coming off a 2-0 win over D.C. United, are strong enough to challenge the Whitecaps on their home ground.

*Canada vs. Martinique
*Sunday, July 7th at 4:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***In the second Group A match we see the two teams least likely to advance out of the group, Canada and Martinique. Canada has had a decent run in World Cup Qualifying and have a chance to steal a point or so from Mexico or Panama while Martinique are shaping up to the the Tahiti of this tournament: they will be lucky if they even get a shot on goal.

*São Paulo vs. Santos FC
*Sunday, July 7th at 2:00 pm CST on FirstRowSports.eu
***Another Brazilian derby to keep an eye out for is the “San-São” classico between São Paulo sides Santos and São Paulo. São Paulo has produced players like Kaká, Luis Fabiano, and Lucas Moura while Santos is the former playground of Pele, Robinho, and Neymar, so both of these clubs are revered in Brazil, though so far neither team has gotten off to a bright start in the 2013 season.

Stoppage Time:
While only Group A plays this weekend, the rest of the Gold Cup groups spring into action this week:
*Group B:
**Monday, July 8th:
***El Salvador vs. Trinidad & Tobago at 6:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***Haiti vs. Honduras at 8:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer

*Group C:
**Tuesday, July 9th:
***Costa Rica vs. Cuba at 7:30 pm CST on Fox Soccer
***Belize vs. United States at 10:00 pm CST on Fox Soccer

AUDIO – Former U.S. National team member Clint Mathis

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